Hope Pier is a Real Place (But It’s Not Necessarily Where I Say It Is)

Picture credit: Hao Dong

What do you do when your world shrinks?

I go to the river. I spent days gazing at it from a tenth-floor window, all ambition distilled to a desire to walk along it. Now here I am, and it’s a case of reverse pathetic fallacy. I’m falling apart; the sun shines on. The willows unfurl bright green streamers to the water’s edge. Resting gulls bob on the surface.

There’s one new thing: an ice cream cart in front of the Riverside Studios. I scan the handwritten list of flavours and the vendor catches my eye and smiles.

I watch the soft wash of a sculler’s wake.

I’d like to walk further, but Hammersmith Bridge is closed for renovations, cutting me off from my usual path. I look at the muted green and gold of the thing as it spans the river with pointless elegance, going nowhere.

Try again.

What do you do when your future shrinks?

In romantic movies and sitcoms, spooning up ice cream is an acceptable remedy for grief. You take a big tub – which you always have, even though you live alone – from the freezer compartment of your double-sized fridge, and you sit in your bathrobe and eat it. But to buy an ice cream in a cone, and eat it as you walk along the river in the sunshine, seems inappropriately frivolous.

The flavours are West London whacky. Black Sesame and Yuzu Ripple. Gooseberry Crumble. Avocado Cream. Space Dust Sorbet.

Gooseberry Crumble, in a small tub with a little bamboo spoon. It’s pink. I dig in. Buttery, soft crumble pieces and cool sweet fruit, floral in its delicacy.

I sit on a bench and watch posh girls learning to row. Then I walk to Hope Pier.

An Egyptian goose leads her gosling troupe across a patch of weed-rich mud. A heron stalks to a new position. A raven picks up a leaf, discards it.

The bridge repairs force a detour, but I am soon back on the Lower Mall, and the cluster of houseboats is in sight. The water is brackish here, and when the tide is low, on a warm day, there is a smell of seaweed.

It’s a point to walk to, nothing more, because you need a destination. I like to look at the boats, and the birdlife. The name of the place has no significance at all.

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